This April 2, Holland Bloorview joined the international autism community to shine a light on autism. "Light it up Blue" is a unique global initiative that kicks-off autism awareness month and helps bring visibility to autism. To show its support, Holland Bloorview changed elements of the building's exterior lights to blue, staff dressed in blue, and Holland Bloorview's autism team hosted a lunchtime bake sale to raise awareness as well as funds to support Holland Bloorview's autism research centre (ARC).
In an exciting boost for autism initiatives at Holland Bloorview, the hospital foundation today announced a $1-million commitment from RBC Foundation to support the RBC Anxiety Management Program for Kids with Autism, which offers group-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for managing anxiety in children with autism.
Today's donation is part of RBC's recognition of World Autism Awareness Day. This ground-breaking program in support of children's mental health at Holland Bloorview was celebrated at a special luncheon, attended by some of Canada's top scientists in autism. Guests learned about the RBC Anxiety Management Program for Kids with Autism, a five-year program, now in its second year. The program uses cognitive behavioural therapy and was developed in the 1960s and has been well-suited to addressing anxiety disorders.
"This program at Holland Bloorview has the potential to help thousands of kids with autism in Canada and worldwide. RBC is proud to make this $1-million commitment to Holland Bloorview to help improve the lives of children and families participating in the RBC Anxiety Management Program for Kids with Autism," says George Lewis, Group Head, RBC Wealth Management & Insurance. "We're committed to supporting community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children's mental health issues."
One in 88 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Of those children who are diagnosed, 75 percent experience clinically significant symptoms of anxiety. The results of the RBC Anxiety Management Program for Kids with Autism in addressing this issue have been encouraging. Heather Cook, whose 11-year-old daughter, Ava, participated in the first year of the program, shares how the program helped improve her daughter's quality of life.
"Although Ava still experiences more anxiety than the average person, the difference now is that she has a better sense of the tools and strategies she can use to address her fears. These are strategies she'll use her whole life," said Cook.
"We are grateful for RBC's support. One of the many benefits of the RBC Anxiety Management Program is training therapists from community agencies, which is helping to build much needed capacity in the community in support of kids with autism," says Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou, Co-Lead of the Autism Research Centre at Holland Bloorview. "We hope to train therapists from 10 agencies in the Greater Toronto Area by the end of the five-year program."